All posts filed under: Travelling

Norwegian Escape Preview

Setting Sail on the Norwegian Escape

I would imagine that your thoughts on cruises are very much like mine were. I never thought that I would enjoy one. I love water, and I love a ship, but cruises themselves always seem so old fashioned and dated. Right? I worried about them being predictive. I worried about feeling like I would have to do the same thing every night. I worried generally about a lack of freedom, I dreaded not having my space. I felt I might be trapped on a big boat out at sea. I worried that maybe the food wouldn’t be very good, or not to my taste. I had never actually been on a cruise though, this was all based on what I thought a cruise might be. I decided I should give one a go, and tried a particularly food-centric one last year. And, whaddya know, I quite like a cruise. A cruise is a lovely break for a water baby like myself. They are more private than I imagined and they are especially good for someone …


48 Hours in Dublin (And Where to Eat & Drink)

This post was sponsored by Avios who challenged me to Do More and spend 40,000 Avios getting to and in a location of my choice. I could have comfortably gone anywhere in Europe, but I chose Dublin, because I love any opportunity to go home, and reconnect. 48 hours in Dublin is a treat. So close to London, just over an hour on a flight, and for me an opportunity to reconnect and plug in to my culture. Ireland is very different to the UK, and people often don’t understand that. Sure, there is a common language, but the cultures diverge. Everything you have heard about us being oh-so-very-friendly is true, even in a major city like Dublin you will find that most will chat to you for no reason other than being curious about who you are and what you do. Ireland is also a haven for creatives. Many artists, musicians and writers call Ireland home, as do many tech geeks (Dublin is home to the European headquarters of Google, Twitter & Facebook). For food …


Shackfuyu in Residence at the Bone Daddies Bermondsey Kitchen

Shackfuyu ticks a few boxes: great food, fantastic playlist, secret basement bar and a great drinks list (hello sake). From the team behind Bone Daddies, one of my favourite London ramen bars, Shackfuyu are serving Japanese soul food including eclectic and full flavoured fusion dishes like mentaiko mac and cheese and have been for the last (??) 6 months. Shackfuyu do great things with their wood oven, sukiyaki style wagyu picanha, roast fish, and a wonderful hot stone rice with sesame, chilli & beef which I have burned myself on more than once. Worth it every time, enthusiasm often triumphs sense when there is good food in front of me. Instagram loves the Kinako French Toast with Soft Serve Ice Cream, but I can’t look past the Prawn Toast as Okonomiyaki, which is exactly as it says, a round prawn toast topped as an okonomiyaki is with Japanese mayo, brown sauce and shaved dried bonito flakes. Did I mention the Korean Chicken Wings?   Unfortunately, Shackfuyu also ticks another box at the moment: closed. Just temporarily while they refurbish the …


Bringing San Sebastian Home to Your Kitchen: How to Make a Gilda Pintxo & Hedgehog Prawns

My trip to San Sebastian wasn’t all about pintxos and restaurants, although it was all about eating. I spent Sunday afternoon cooking with Tenedor Tours, and learning all about Basque food that I could cook at home. We met in the lively old town of San Sebastian in a gorgeous apartment dedicated to Gabriella’s cooking classes. There was a long room with an open kitchen at one end, and a table set up for us to eat at after. The light was beautiful, crisp and Autumnal, and Gabriella was waiting, brandishing a bottle of Txacoli and a warm welcome. Gabriella has been running tours in Spain since 1997. In San Sebastian she works with chefs from the Basque Culinary Center (where she also teaches), and puts together sociable fun Basque cooking workshops followed by a meal where you devour your efforts. Our chef was Íñigo Zeberio (Princess Bride fans, there are a lot of Íñigos in San Sebastian, and you may find that phrase  – My name is Íñigo etc. – circling around your head repeatedly). A San Sebastian …

Pintxos in San Sebastian

Where to Eat Pintxos in San Sebastian (Donostia), in Spain

Don’t even dare try to order tapas in San Sebastian. There are no tapas there (unless you happen to be in an Andalucian restaurant). In the Basque region and San Sebastian it is all about the pintxos (pronounced pincho). Small bites, served on sticks and piled high on the bars that line the San Sebastian streets. When finished you present the sticks to the bartender, and that is how they calculate your bill. Different sticks denote different prices where there is variation. A little about San Sebastian first. A small city in the Basque country of 200,000 people straddling a long beautiful bay, San Sebastian is near the French border and is home to three of Spain’s seven 3 michelin star restaurants. It is second only to Kyoto for the number of michelin stars per square metre. This is pretty impressive but there is much more to this city. There are the many pintxo bars, the cider houses and all of the lovely local Txacoli wine. If you have not had it, I suggest you …


Great Train Journeys: Over the Canadian Rockies from Banff to Vancouver on the Rocky Mountaineer

Mountaineering? No, that is not for me. Unless of course you mean Rocky Mountaineering through the Canadian Rockies with an old school dining car and upper level viewing car to soak it all in? Well, yes, of course! That is a different thing.  My journey started in Banff at 6am at the end of September, and a sharp -2 deg C. That day would take me through the Rockies in late Autumn, with its turning leaves, cascading waterfalls and rushing rivers. We were headed towards Kamloops heralded by the bright early Autumn sky and the crisp sharp air. I boarded the mountaineer, greeted by cheerful hosts at dawn, the sky dressed to match with a splash of pink ribbon light. I was excited, I adore trains and slow travel and I was allowing myself a couple of days to just be. How rare is that? For the next two days, that Rocky Mountaineer carriage would be my world. All travel on the Rocky Mountaineer is in daylight so that you can absorb and appreciate the views. In …


A Postcard from Canada (Alberta -> British Colombia -> Nova Scotia)

Greetings lovely readers! I have just returned from an 18 day trip exploring Canada. It was pretty epic, starting in Alberta (Calgary & Banff), moving to BC (Vancouver & the Okanagan) and finishing in Nova Scotia (Halifax & Cape Breton mainly). Here is a little postcard – enjoy! Back soon with recipes, stories and details. I had less than a day in Calgary but I did it justice in the time visiting Pigeonhole, The Nash, Corbeaux Bakehouse, the Yellow Door Bistro and Charcut. I also managed a little spice shopping in the wonder that is the Silk Road Spice Shop. The food scene in Calgary is thriving and has been growing enthusiastically for the last 5 years. As is common now there was lots of local sourcing, cocktails are popular and well executed. Calgary is inland and is famous for beef, but there are interesting takes on fish too. Did you know that there are cowboys in Calgary? Yeah, and one of the worlds largest rodeos! Boutique bitters are a thing, and there are lots of interesting …


Where to Eat Pasta & Pizza in Rome

You have not been to Rome? You must go, make it your next trip away. You have been already? Go again! Rome is constantly evolving and on top of wonderful traditional old school restaurants, there are lots of new and exciting things to explore when you next visit. And it is Rome, the Eternal City, a very special place. There are some cities that I will always try to spend a few days in if I am passing through. Rome is one, one of the first world cities that I visited at a very naive and tender age of 19. I didn’t leave Ireland until I was 18, so it was an exciting time, and I loved it. Rome was magical for me. I had spent the summer in Nice, and hopped on the train to Florence for a princely sum of about £25, Irish pounds, there was no euro yet. The trains were still quite old school then, little rooms with wooden doorways and glass windows, with six seats in each. There was a lady with a …


Paradise Garage – New Kid on the Eastern Block from The Dairy

A quick one for you today! Another London restaurant for your lists, I think this is an essential. Chef Robin Gill of The Dairy, The Manor and The Delicatessen seems to have the midas touch or is that the lardo touch, right now? I say with that with great respect and affection, lardo is one of the most delicious things on the planet, and Robin has the good sense to wrap some around a gorgeous egg. With head chef Simon Woodrow and Robin’s wife Sarah, Robin has created one of my favourite new openings this year, Paradise Garage, in the railway arches near Bethnal Green tube station. They have delivered a menu that is as exciting as it is comforting. I went for lunch recently and it was one of my best lunches this year. So, I just had to let you know. Venison tartare, preserved egg yolk & watercress – a lively and gorgeous dish to start my meal. On top was grated preserved egg yolk, tasting a little like bottarga. Tilley’s farm egg, …


Walking Piedmont: From Barolo to Monforte d’Alba (& Where to Eat)

I left Barolo full of the joys of Spring, or was that the intense heat of summer? The first half of my walk was joyful, through the upper terraces of the Barolo vineyards, passing gardens rich with vegetable bounty, courgette flowers, plums, so many tomatoes. The occasional yappy dog, they do love them in Italy. I knew I was tired when I was overtaken by an elderly man walking two tiny dogs as I approached Monforte d’Alba, yet another of Piedmonts beautiful hilltop towns. I was in no rush, I smiled, attempted to communicate in Italian, and carried on.  My arrival was less glamorous. The Hotel Villa Beccaris, a beautiful four star property at the top of the hill was beautiful, relaxed and had the most glorious views. But after a long walk in the sun, the hill was a challenge. It surprised me that it ended with a sprint, one of those yappy dogs fled his old lady owner in pursuit of me when he decided that my ankles were much more appealing. Speckled with mosquito …


The New Sunday Roast at Bob Bob Ricard

It would be improper of me not to let you know about the new Sunday Roast at Bob Bob Ricard in London. Or to mention Bob Bob Ricard at all, it has been a while. Bob Bob Ricard is a most under rated restaurant. It doesn’t care about trends, the food is classic, and it is very well executed. It is refreshing and it is fun. Even though Bob Bob Ricard is in the heart of Soho, it feels like it could be a grand restaurant from 100 years ago or a very large carriage of a luxury train. When I have visitors in town, we often go. It is famous for being the home of the famous Press for Champagne button. I always allow myself to press it at least once. When you do, your table number lights up above the bar, and a glass of house champagne is delivered to you. Another essential drink for every visit is the rhubarb G&T, bright pink, intensely flavoured and textured with egg white. The cocktails generally …

Barolo - the most gorgeous of Piedmont towns

A Gorgeous Day in Barolo, Piedmont (and Where to Eat)

Barolo is an aspiration, in every way. I want to drink the wine, all the time. The Barolo, the Arneis, the Barbera and the Chardonnay. I had wanted to visit there for a while, who wouldn’t want to go to the epicentre of Barolo production, home to truffles in summer & winter, the food must be good too, right?  Getting to Barolo (when already there) is a mission, when on foot, at least. I could not believe my eyes when faced with a sneaky hill seemingly hidden behind of and leading into this pretty town. I was in denial at this point, you see. But, it was worth it. I spent the bulk of my day there, choosing to walk early in the morning to Barolo from the top of that hill where Castiglione Falletto is perched. That hill. That vicious one. It was a gorgeous walk, through vineyards, by a stream, under boughs of elder tress laden with enthusiastic overarching elderberries. It seemed as though they were playing in the sun. It was hot, and …


Dispatches from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Where to Eat & Stay)

Even though it is only a couple of hours flight away, Sarawak feels very different to mainland Malaysia. Sarawak is hotter, the humidity is particularly intense, and it feels very rural. There is a lot of jungle, and you know, orangutans and proboscis monkeys. Lots of lovely primates. And while Sarawak may only be one of two Malay provinces in Borneo, most of which is actually Indonesia, you could fit the whole of Ireland into it one and a half times. It ain’t small. Kuala Lumpur by comparison felt very urban, and while I was prepared for a very sticky situation in terms of heat and humidity, it felt cooler, although so would almost anywhere. Kuala Lumpur is a tall city, with the Petronus twin tours and several bars perched high with great views. Despite this, Kuala Lumpur feels very accessible and not overwhelming, and people don’t feel rushed. It is very doable as a stopover which is essentially what I did. I laid my head at The Majestic Hotel, a Kuala Lumpur institution still …

Castiglione Falletto

Walking Piedmont: Castiglione Falletto for Dinner & First Tastes of Barolo Wines

Have you ever had a nemesis? Something that makes you want to swear and shout, a thing that you think that you can’t beat but you still try, something that makes you want to throw your arms in the air and fall down and not think of getting up again for a while? Maybe just stay there, you know, forever. Was it ever a vineyard on a hill?  Yeah. I am deadly serious.  One day of my recent trek from town to town in Piedmont, my last kilometre or so was up a hill. It looked bad as I walked down the hill before to get there. I say a walk, more of a slow deliberate trot through woods and vineyards, winding and meandering and looking at that hill with Castiglione Falletto perched on top. I had my book, my saving grace, and every now and then when the heatwave became too much, or the hill started to defeat me, I would stop in the shade of a hazelnut grove or a vine, crouched low, avoiding …


Walking Piedmont: Roddi to Grinzane Cavour & Dinner at Al Castello

Sunday morning was the day of my first Piedmont walk. And it was HOT. Italy is experiencing a heatwave right now. I gathered my bags and had my briefing with the Headwater team before they dropped me at my first stop. A little about the Headwater setup first. As you will have read in my last post on Piedmont, my trip to Piedmont was part of the #30activedays blogger project with Headwater Holidays. 5 bloggers were involved in Italy, France & Austria, each doing an activity holiday. Not my usual travel style, although I am keen to be more active, I love slow travel and I love to walk. Headwater make it easy, the walks are already detailed in notes and maps which they send you before you go to Italy. Every morning that you walk, the team move your bags to the next hotel, not just that, they have a wine delivery service and will pick up any wine that you buy too, delivering it to your final hotel for you to collect before …

Barolo - the most gorgeous of Piedmont towns

A Postcard from Piedmont, Italy: Walking Hilltop Towns, Hazelnut Groves, Truffles, Wine & Pasta

I was in Italy this past week to walk it. Yes, I was walking in the country that is shaped like a boot. Specifically, Piedmont in the North, and its UNESCO protected vineyard terraces, castles and gorgeous hilltop towns and villages.  This was quite the workout, ensuring that I earned every bite of pasta that I ate. And there was a lot to eat. And yeah, I did. Of course, I did! Italy is one of my favourite countries for food and I love the culinary education that I get with every visit. This wasn’t my first trip to Piedmont but I still discovered new pasta shapes and sauces, each enthusiastic forkful fired my brain and filled my head with ideas and plans for kitchen adventures.  I love slow travel, I wish that I could do it more often. Walking, boats, trains, time by myself where I can tune out and just be. Time to get to know the place that I am visiting and soak it all in, at pace. Piedmont is perfect for this. Piedmont is rich, green …


Where to Eat, Drink & Stay in Menorca

I bumped into a friend on my flight back from Menorca recently. I was very tired and so I squinted, but no, sure enough it was Will. And he reminded me how much he loved Menorca, and how he had got married there. He visits all the time, and all I could think was, yes, of course you do. It is such a lovely place. Surprisingly so, and not because it isn’t lovely, it is, but because it feels so untainted by tourism. Aren’t all of the lovely places already very busy?

Caldereta de Langosta at Es Cranc in Menorca

A Perfect Sunday Lunch: Caldereta de Langosta in Menorca at Es Cranc (Traditional Lobster Soup + a Recipe)

On a quiet street in Fornells in Menorca is an unassuming restaurant, Es Cranc. Es Cranc has a large menu, but most come here for the Caldereta de Langosta, a popular lobster soup from Menorca made with the native blue spiny lobsters which Es Cranc is particularly well regarded for. Caldereta gets its name from the pot that it is cooked in, a caldera. Traditionally this was a fishermans dish, cooked with the broken lobsters that they had caught. Now, it is a luxury and an indulgence, cooked at home for special occasions and at specialist restaurants like Es Cranc in Fornells. Behind a side door next to Es Cranc is a path that meanders to a room of large water baths, and these are full of spiny lobster. Spinning and weaving, large and small, these lobsters are mostly destined for the caldereta, some will be served simply grilled on their own. This is where the fishermen deliver their catch, for Es Cranc that is 5 different day boats that go out up to 7 …


A Postcard from Myanmar (aka Burma)

I am deep in jet lag and ache in most places, but my spirits are light after 9 days on the road. I went back to Asia just 10 days after I returned from Borneo (I know, I would have stayed in between but I just didn’t have the time). It was a short intense trip as I zipped around Myanmar (aka Burma) via Singapore, to experience the food culture there. Myanmar, Burma? Well why the two names anyway, right? Which is correct? There are two theories for the Burma name, one that the British couldn’t pronounce Myanmar when they arrived in 1824 and so renamed it to Burma, the second that Burma relates closely to the name of the predominant Bamar tribe. There are 135 ethnic groups in Burma, Bamar form 68% followed by Shan at 9% so they are significant to the culture at large. Myanmar was the original name and it is the official name now so I will stick with that.


Cooking with the Grandmothers of Abruzzo [Video]

I spend a wonderful 4 days in Abruzzo earlier this year cooking and eating with the Grandmothers of Abruzzo. I was working on a recipe based project with the tourist board, and we put together a video of my trip there. Enjoy!  See my previous Abruzzo post: Dispatches from Abruzzo, Italy: Cooking with the Grandmothers of Abruzzo and Where to Eat I visited Abruzzo with Visit Abruzzo to explore the region and shoot a video with them, which I will share shortly. Londoners can fly to Pescara in Abruzzo from London Stansted, or you can drive (or get a bus) from Rome.